Loss changes a person.
Wilson had seen his share of loss in his years as head of oncology at the hospital, one family after another passing through his doors with the news that there was nothing to be done to help their loved one – that they were going to lose them.
At least they had some warning…
He glared down at his desk through his bitter tears, his pen going still in his hand when he could no longer see to write.
At least they knew…had time to prepare…say goodbye. They didn't have her…have her stolen from them, in an instant, without any warning…they didn't…
All at once his emotions overwhelmed him, and he felt as if he was going to be sick. His stomach roiled dangerously, as the tears filling his eyes slipped down his face to form wet gray drops on the paper in front of him. He dropped the pen, his hand rising to cover his face as he broke down again, one more breakdown in the midst of dozens since he had lost Amber.
Since she was killed…taken away from me…by that stupid, unbelievably selfish…
Wilson wiped angrily at his face with his handkerchief, struggling to pull himself together, abruptly halting his thoughts before they could go down the dangerous road they were about to take. He had made up his mind, the day Amber had died, standing in the doorway of the hospital room where his best friend lay in a coma.
When House had opened his eyes, stunned to see that Wilson was actually there at all, and looked up at him with that desperate mixture of pleading and sorrow and regret – Wilson knew in that moment.
He couldn't forgive.
Amber's life was over because of this man – because of his irresponsibility and disregard for anyone but himself – and because of that, Wilson was through with him. He had done his best to be understanding and compassionate, for many years now, because of the close friendship they had shared – but all that was over.
He would not waste another thought on Gregory House.
The only problem was, from the moment he decided not to give any more thought to the man who had been his best friend…it seemed that Wilson could think of nothing and no one else. It hurt to much to think of Amber, to indulge in his memories of her. His job could only hold his attention for so long, too, before darker thoughts began to fill his mind, thoughts of the one responsible for the grief-filled nightmare his life had become.
Thoughts of justice for Amber.
Thoughts of revenge.
Thoughts that frightened him.
He pushed the thoughts out of his head and did his best to finish his work, so he could go home to another empty night in his empty apartment, with nothing for company but the television and whatever liquor he might have left in the cabinet – which at this point was rather limited. In the weeks since Amber's death, he had swiftly depleted a collection that had formerly been mostly for show.
Perhaps that had something to do with the massive headache that had been plaguing him all day.
The sound of his door swinging open sounded unbearably high-pitched and annoying, and Wilson glared up at whoever dared intrude upon his privacy, much more highly prized these days than ever before.
Suddenly, his headache was much worse.
He did not speak to the man who stood in the doorway, his head lowered, clutching his cane so tightly that his knuckles were white and trembling. House was staring at him, his mouth working as if he wanted to speak but could not find the words; a wide-eyed, trapped sort of expression was on his face, as if this was the very last place on earth he really wanted to be.
Wilson agreed completely with that sentiment.
House hovered in the doorway for a few seconds, half in, half out, and no doubt gaining no encouragement from the silent indignation in Wilson's piercing dark eyes as he stared up at him, the unspoken questions clear on his face.
Why are you here? What right do you think you have to be here?
After a few moments, House seemed to make his decision, visibly mustering his courage as he stepped into the office and firmly, deliberately closed the door, before turning again to face his former friend directly. He drew in a deep breath, and Wilson could see in his eyes what he was about to say – useless words House had no right to say, and Wilson had no desire to hear.
The oncologist deliberately redirected his attention to the paper on his desk, all but pretending that the other doctor was not even there, though he knew House well enough by now to be acutely aware of the discomfort his dismissal was causing.
Good. He deserves it. And a lot worse.
"I…I know I don't have any right to ask you to…oh, I don't know, look at me…" House paused, then sighed when Wilson did not look up at him. "Well, anyway…I have to say this. Even if you don't feel like listening…"
"Don't you dare tell me you're sorry." Wilson's voice was dangerously soft; his pen never faltered in its careful movements across the paper in front of him.
House was taken aback by the words, though they were not a complete surprise to him. He was quiet for a moment, frustrated, uncertain. He knew very well that "sorry" was nothing but a meaningless word to Wilson right now, in the midst of his grief, but he had no idea what else he could say, what he could possibly do to make right the terrible damage he had done to their friendship.
All he knew was that he had to do something, anything, to get his best friend back.
He had recovered very quickly from the coma, and Cuddy had made a point of checking in on him as often as her job would allow, making sure that he was doing all right – but he was quickly discovering that "all right" was a relative term. Physically, he was doing fine.
Emotionally – he was a wreck.
He could no longer talk to the one person he had trusted more than anyone else – or more accurately, at all. His best friend could not even look at him any more, hated him, blamed him for the devastating depression that was now consuming him. Wilson had lost the most important person in his life.
Yeah, well…I know how you feel, Jimmy.
Wilson's sharp words were almost enough to kill what little courage he had managed to muster. House turned toward the door with a heavy sigh, opening it again and taking a step out.
Then – he stopped.
He simply could not bring himself to walk out of Wilson's office, to leave the terrible tension unresolved between them. There had to be a way to make Wilson understand how sorry he was, to somehow earn his forgiveness – there just had to be. Whether Wilson accepted his attempts, or shot him down without mercy, he had to try…because…
…because I can't keep on going like this…I can't keep going without him…without anybody…
He closed the door again, turning to face Wilson once more.
Angrily, Wilson threw the pen down on the desk, glaring up at House warningly. "Get out. Of my office."
"Give me just a second, okay?" House's uncharacteristically soft voice held a pleading note as he stood in front of Wilson's desk, meeting his gaze only with an extreme force of will. It was difficult not to look away from the seething fury and resentment in the dark, expressive eyes he knew so well. "I know you don't want to hear 'sorry' from me – know it doesn't do a damn bit of good now – but you have to understand that I would do anything to make this right…"
"You've done enough," Wilson snapped. "Get out."
"Wilson…please…" House's voice trembled with desperation. "Please…if there's anything I can do…anything it takes to somehow…somehow get you to forgive me…I'll do it. I just…I just can't…I need to do something…"
Wilson shook his head, disbelieving and disgusted, and suddenly House felt very stupid for his suggestion. Of course, there as nothing…of course, his words were meaningless…
"You actually think you can come in here and offer to…what? Do some kind of act of penance? And it'll make me magically forget that you killed the one person in this world that meant everything to me?" Wilson's voice rose slightly with every word, and he slowly stood, his hands clenched into fists, braced against the top of his desk. "There is nothing you can do to fix that, House! This isn't some mystery you can figure out the answer to! You've ruined my life…like you ruin every life you come close enough to touch…and I…hate…you!"
House flinched at the word, clearly enunciated so as to leave no doubt as to how much Wilson meant it. He lowered his head, blinking back tears that, even now, he could not quite bring himself to allow Wilson to see. His voice came out in a hoarse whisper that he hardly recognized, tinged with anguish and desperation, as he asked the question that had been haunting his thoughts for the past few weeks.
"Are you…are you going to hate me forever?"
Wilson calmed slightly at that, a strange, cold smile coming over his face, and his soft, cruel voice when he spoke was so much worse than the yelling that preceded it.
"Kinda looking that way right now, House. Yeah."
House swallowed hard, his throat constricting, aching with the tears he struggled to hold back, as he nodded his heartbroken acceptance of Wilson's brutal words. "You just…you just have to know," he whispered into the painful stillness that had fallen in the room. "You have to know that if there's anything I could do…anything that could make it better…make you…feel…better…I'd…"
His eyes were down, and he was lost in his own tormenting thoughts, so he started when Wilson suddenly spoke, and he realized that the other doctor was no longer behind his desk, but standing right in front of him, one fist still braced on the desk, as if for support, but leaning in toward his face with fury blazing in his eyes.
"You want to know what would make me feel better right now, House? 'Cause I really don't think you'd be so eager if you did."
House looked up, though he could hardly stand to, overwhelmingly intimidated by the unmasked rage and accusation he saw in his former friend's eyes, as well as his imposing nearness, mere inches in front of his face. "I said 'anything', Jimmy," he whispered. "I meant it."
"Did you." Wilson bit the words out sarcastically as he took a step forward, forcing House to take one backward, smiling in bitter satisfaction that the brash doctor, never concerned with propriety or respecting the space of others, was yielding to his advance. "Because you know what I'd like to do right now? You know what I think would give me just a few minutes peace of mind?"
As he spoke, he continued advancing on House, who stumbled a few awkward steps backward until his back was to the wall to the side of Wilson's desk. House was staring into his eyes now, searching, apprehensive. The older doctor said not a word, just shook his head in a silent question.
"If I could make you hurt, like I'm hurting right now…like…like she…"
Wilson's voice broke off abruptly, and he pressed a fist to his mouth in an attempt to stifle his rising sobs. After a moment, he managed to regain control, shaking his head in an attempt to evade his memories for long enough to finish his words. He glared at House again, violent anger in his eyes as he continued.
"I'd like to make you suffer," he whispered, his face inches from House's now, and the older man was breathing faster now, more than a little unsettled by Wilson's rage.
"I'd like to break you down and make you see how truly pathetic you are…tear down that self-centered ego that made you think you deserved to call her for help, but were somehow too good to accept it! I'd like to tear you apart like you've torn apart everything that was ever important to me…show you what it feels like to be broken and feel like every part of you is falling apart." Wilson's voice was trembling violently, his face streaked with tears as he whispered, "You really think you can take that, House? You really think you're willing to do whatever I need?"
House was silent, glancing downward for a moment before raising his eyes to meet Wilson's again, solemn and full of regret. His voice was quiet and even, and utterly sincere, when he finally voiced his simple response.
Wilson's eyes widened in stunned disbelief for a moment, and his breath caught in his throat when House leaned back against the wall, slowly raising his hand and holding out his cane as if offering it to Wilson.
"Please," he whispered. "I'll do anything…let you do anything…" He paused, swallowing back a sob. "If you'll just forgive me."
Wilson was all set to dismiss the idea completely – to back off, leaving House alone by the wall and dismissing him, ordering him out of his office one more time. He knew the other man well enough by now to know that if he told him to leave now, he would almost certainly do it, accepting that he had tried his best, and his best had been rejected.
He also knew him well enough to know that he was dead serious.
If Wilson chose to do so, House would allow him to take the cane from his hand and beat him to the ground with it.
And the thought was horribly tempting.
A picture flashed in Wilson's mind, of Amber, in her dying moments…the terror in her eyes as she had put the pieces together as he gave them to her, and realized that there was no hope for her.
She was so smart…of course she figured it out for herself…what took us hours to figure out…she knew it in seconds…she was so brilliant…so strong and beautiful…
…and he took her from me…he killed her…
Red spots of rage dancing in his vision, Wilson snatched the cane from House's hand before he could stop himself, dropping it to the floor behind him before backhanding the other man with his fist, the blow slamming his head into the wall behind him.
"You killed her," he hissed the accusation. "You and your stupid, self-important belief that the entire world revolves around you and whatever crisis of the moment you happen to be having!" He punctuated the words with another blow of his fist, this one directed to House's stomach, and doubling him over with pain.
House did not make a sound, made no move to defend himself, as he dropped to his knees, unable to regain his balance on his weakened leg. Wilson delivered another blow to his face, followed by an indiscriminate kick that happened to land on House's right thigh.
Wilson noticed with a vague sense of shame through the rage that even then, House made no move to fight back or defend himself. In fact, the only move he made was to cover his own mouth with his arm, biting back the cry of agony induced by the vicious kick to the most sensitive part of his body. Apparently, he was more concerned with ensuring Wilson's privacy for the beating he was delivering, than he was with the beating itself.
Somehow, this knowledge only served to increase Wilson's anger, however, and he kicked his leg again with savage force, feeling a sense of twisted satisfaction when House's face contorted in agony, and he doubled over, his face resting on his knees as he struggled not to black out.
Wilson finally stopped, breathing heavily, staring down at his former friend with a vague sense of numbness stealing over his mind and body, as he tried to come to terms with what he had done. Not knowing what else to do, he reached down and caught hold of House's collar, hauling him to his feet against the wall. Once House was standing, Wilson turned back toward his desk with a weary sigh.
He had felt better for a few moments, while he was working out his rage on House's body…but now, all he felt was numb.
"Do you…do you feel better now?" House rasped, his voice hoarse with pain, his body still slightly bent as he struggled to deal with the pain his friend had inflicted. He hesitated before adding in a pitifully hopeful tone, "Can you…do you think you can…forgive me…now?"
The question infuriated Wilson, and he felt cold anger washing over him again.
He doesn't even care what he did…all he cares about is getting back on my good side…as selfish as ever…
"Not yet," he answered with a cold smile that did not reach his eyes. "Maybe you should come back tomorrow and try again."
House stared up at him, blinking with a hurt, startled expression in his eyes. "Wilson…please…"
"Get out," Wilson snarled, turning back to face House and reaching down to pick up his cane.
He held the cane out, and House reached to take it – but just as he did, Wilson tossed it behind him, sending it skidding across the floor toward the other side of the room. House stared at it, and then back up at Wilson, stunned by the raw cruelty of the act. Wilson just shrugged at him as he returned to his desk, picking up his pen and continuing to work, as if House was not even in the room, and he had not just beaten him brutally.
House was utterly silent, watching him for a few moments, before he began the slow, painful struggle across the room to where his cane lay. The trip back to the door was easier, but not much, considering the pain he was in. At the door, he stopped, glancing back over his shoulder, and his words caught Wilson's attention in spite of himself, drawing the younger man's eyes up in surprise as House gave him a soft, ironic smile and murmured,
"See you tomorrow."